Monday, September 27, 2010

Qatar updates

Okay, it has been a busy week.

First, I would just like to mention this local news article on a recent Science Camp for children.

I sometimes get concerned that with Western media focus on places like Iraq and Afghanistan, or showing pictures of whatever fundamentalists are burning a flag this week, that people don't realize that much of the Islamic world is not like that and are generally supportive of science and scientific advancement. Qatar has spent a lot of money on universities, education, and even has a Qatar Scientific Club, who hosted the camp.

Don't get me wrong, Qatar has a long way to go. Per the 2006 PISA test Qatar was 56th out of 57 countries in science and math. Hopefully they will improve on the 2009 test. At a recent skeptics meet-up I was talking to a teacher and he told me that he did find the educational standards worrisome. Apparently some Qataris are graduating from high school not even being able to multiply single digits. Again, I hope there'll be some improvement on the 2009 PISA test results though I do not expect a dramatic improvement -- reforms in an educational system take many years to manifest in improvements in Students.

Speaking of PISA, did anyone watch President Obama’s recent discussions on education in America?

here's a key excerpt:
“My administration is announcing that we are going to specifically focus on training 10,000 new math and science teachers," he said. "We have to boost performance in that area. We used to rank at the top; we are now 21st in science, 25th in math. That is a sign of long-term decline that has to be reversed.”
So where did the 21st and 25th came from? I thought it came from the PISA 2006 test results but that would mean Obama is only counting the OECD countries -- the US results are even worse when you throw in non-OECD countries in the mix:

Secondly, lectures have started up again at the Museum of Islamic Art, the next one is this Wednesday at 6:30 PM. Anyone who is interested should contact the Museum for details. I enjoyed the lectures they put on last year.

Thirdly, the Qatar Natural History Group is back for another season of lectures and field trips. The first lecture is on Wednesday, October 6, see their website for more details

Lastly, I received a great gift from a Qatari friend this week, but I'll talk more about that next post.


Anonymous said...

Quite true, about mathematical abilities here. Before moving to Doha, I started reading your blog and a couple of others to prepare myself. I still quite believe how rudimentary the local populations' skills are in almost all subjects including math. In higher education we have to teach them almost elementary math to bring them up to speed with the skills they need to complete their degrees. You could imagine how much time we'd have to waste and how much longer it takes them to graduate. Any degree typically takes twice as long as in the West and even then just barely with the same standard.

Glen McKay said...

In defense, some of the Qataris I know who went to universities abroad seemed to do all right but overall based on my discussions with them and the results from the PISA test it is clear that Qatar is in need of serious reform at the elementary educational levels.